U.S. President Donald Trump. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Insists Asia Trip That Lacked Breakthroughs Was a Success

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump pushed back on Wednesday against observations that his nearly two-week trip to Asia had produced no breakthroughs on trade or on North Korea, delivering a 24-minute statement at the White House in defense of his nationalist agenda.

Speaking from a teleprompter, Trump twice paused awkwardly to drink from a water bottle as he recounted both the trip to five Asian countries -- in a nearly day-by-day, travelogue style -- and previous trips to the Mideast and Europe. He declared that the U.S. has never been more respected across the globe and that Americans are again “optimistic about the future, confident in our values and proud of our history and role in the world.”

“My message has resonated,” he said.

He took no questions and ignored reporters’ shouted questions about Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama plagued by allegations he sexually assaulted a woman when she was a child and inappropriately pursued romantic relationships with other underage girls.

During his Asia trip, Trump demanded that foreign leaders help narrow U.S. trade deficits and pushed them to buy more U.S. military equipment. He publicly advocated his “America first” policies, warning U.S. trade partners that he was ready to take more protectionist steps to help American businesses and workers.

In China, the administration announced more than $200 billion in tentative deals between U.S. and Chinese companies. But the agreements aren’t contracts and might not be fulfilled. And while the president railed against what he regards as systemic flaws in U.S. trade relationships, he neither publicly requested or received specific assurances by foreign leaders to reduce imbalances or address issues such as market access by U.S. companies and intellectual property theft.

Carrot, Stick

Trump said that he has insisted on “fair and reciprocal trade” with other countries, describing the stance as both an “open invitation” and “a warning to any country that cheats” or “engages in economic aggression.”

The U.S. trade deficit, which he put at $800 billion a year, is “‘unacceptable. We are going to start whittling that down, as fast as possible.”

While he was abroad, 11 Pacific Rim nations announced that they would revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Trump scrapped upon entering office, this time without the U.S. as a participant. The Trump administration is also embroiled in testy negotiations with Mexico and Canada over revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact the president has also threatened to abandon.

Trump said on Wednesday that countries participating in three summits he attended during the trip had agreed to support a U.S. campaign to economically pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear program. The country’s regime remains defiant, however, and official statements following Trump’s visit to China from the White House and Beijing -- North Korea’s most important economic partner and ally -- didn’t indicate any specific progress.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is dispatching an envoy to North Korea this week, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, supposedly to brief the country’s leadership on China’s once-in-five-year leadership shuffle. The timing suggests the envoy may carry a message about talks between Trump and Xi.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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